Scott, George C.


Scott, George C.
(1926–1999)
   Born in Wise, Virginia, George C. Scott attended the University of Missouri, where he majored in journalism until he found that he preferred acting. He appeared in campus productions and graduated to Off-Broadway and Broadway after leaving college. He then went on to television and films. Among his first roles were the prosecuting attorney in a case involving rape and murder in Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959), opposite James Stewart, and a nasty gambler in Robert Rossen’s The Hustler (1961), with Paul Newman. Later, Scott went back to the New York theater, and STANLEY KUBRICK saw him play Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in Central Park in the summer of 1963. Kubrick thought him right to play U. S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Buck Turgidson in DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) and offered him the part. Scott had already achieved the reputation of being a temperamental actor, but the word on the set was that Kubrick impressed Scott by beating him at chess while still tending to the direction of the picture. Kubrick told Gene Phillips that Scott was impressed by his abilities as a director, not as a chess player; but the legend persists that Kubrick, who did not believe in biting the hand that might strangle him, as one onlooker put it, tamed Scott with his expertise at chess. Scott himself comments in James Howard’s book on Kubrick,“Kubrick is most certainly in command, and he’s so self-effacing that it’s impossible to be offended by him. No pomposity. No vanity. ” Speaking of what Kubrick called the crucial rehearsal periods, Scott remembered Kubrick rewriting scenes on the set in tandem with the cast, and Scott contributed some dialogue to the scenes in which he appeared. “I used to kid him that I should have gotten a screen credit for Dr. Strangelove,” Scott quipped, “because I wrote half of the goddam picture,” echoing MALCOM MCDOWELL’s comments on his contributions to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. There has been a good deal of critical ink spilled over Scott’s performance in this film. While some film scholars and critics maintain that PETER SELLERS, who played three parts in the picture, dominated the proceedings, others are convinced that Scott stole the movie from Sellers while playing only one role. It is therefore appropriate to examine Scott’s scenes in the film with care.
   In Dr. Strangelove the paranoid, insane Gen. Jack D. Ripper (STERLING HAYDEN) suspects that the Soviets have initiated a sneak attack on the United States. He has accordingly placed Burpelson Air Force Base on red alert and has issued the “go-code” (Plan R) to his fleet of B-52 bombers to attack targets in the USSR. The phone rings in the bedroom of Gen. Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) and is answered by his secretary/mistress, Miss Scott (Tracy Reed, a daughter of British director Carol Reed). Miss Scott is referred to in publicity layouts for the film as “Miss World Affairs,” though she is never called that in the film. She tells the caller, General Butridge, that General Turgidson is in the powder room and cannot come to the phone. Turgidson finally appears, first seen coming toward the phone in the wall mirror behind Miss Scott. Turgidson is wearing shorts and a sport shirt open down the front; he punctuates his dialogue by slapping his bare tummy. He obviously considers himself a he-man and a sexual athlete. Butridge explains that General Ripper has implemented Plan R and sealed off Burpelson, so that he cannot be reached even by phone.
   With forced nonchalance, Turgidson tells Miss Scott that he is going to “mosey over to the War Room,” take a look at the “Threat Board,” and see what is happening. Turgidson’s two obsessions are war and sex, and he talks constantly about one in terms of the other. Hence he consoles Miss Scott, “I’m sorry, baby. Start your countdown without me, and I’ll be back before you can say, ‘Blast off!’” The War Room is a murky, cavernous place, where President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) sits at a vast circular table with his advisers, reminiscent of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. Overhead is a bank of lights which bathes the men below in a suitably eerie glow. At one end of the room is the Big Board, a huge map with twinkling indicators that show the progress of the bomber wing toward its Russian objectives. “The aircraft will begin penetrating Russian radar cover in-about twenty-five minutes,”Turgidson informs the assembly, summing up the situation.
   The president indignantly inquires how Ripper could have managed to exceed his authority in such a spectacular way, since only the president can authorize the use of Plan R. Almost sheepishly, Turgidson reminds Muffley that he himself had approved the emergency clause in the procedures governing nuclear attack, according to which a lesser official could invoke Plan R in the event of a sneak attack by the enemy.
   It is now evident to all that the very existence of life on this planet is in jeopardy, because a psychotic general has been able to manipulate according to his own paranoid fantasies the presumably foolproof U. S. security measures governing nuclear attack. Muffley asks Turgidson about the reliability of the psychological tests that approve a man like Ripper for high command, and Turgidson responds meekly, “I wouldn’t be too hasty, Mr. President; I don’t think it’s fair to condemn a whole program because the human element has failed us. ” (Of course, in the context of Kubrick’s films, this re-mark is ironic. Kubrick often suggests in his movies that it is not the human element that is ultimately at fault, but man’s increasing tendency to place more and more faith in his “infallible” machines, even to the point where the human element can no longer intervene to set things right when they go askew. )
   Turgidson, with his rabid military mind, gleefully maintains that things have already gotten to the point where the only recourse possible is to back Ripper’s attack with an all-out nuclear offensive against the Russians before they can retaliate. “If we attack now,” he exclaims with typical crudity, “we have a good chance of catching the Commies with their pants down. ”
   Scott often complained at the time of the picture’s release that Kubrick directed him to play his role way over the top, and then chose Scott’s most overwrought and manic takes for the final cut of the movie. As a result, he felt that in this and some other scenes in the film he came across as a fast-talking, blithering buffoon—frowning, grimacing, and yelping as he fences verbally with the president. Roger Ebert emphatically disagrees, contending that Scott gives the best performance in the movie: “I found myself paying special attention to the tics and twitches, the grimaces and eyebrow archings, the sardonic smiles and gum-chewing, and I enjoyed the way that Scott approached the role as a duet for voice and facial expression,” with his sandpaper voice rang-George C. Scott and Stanley Kubrick play chess on the set of Dr. Strangelove (1964). (Author’s collection) ing from whiplash harshness to silky persuasion as the occasion demanded, as he clutched to his breast a military volume entitled World Targets in Megadeaths. Kubrick endorsed Scott’s facial gymnastics, Ebert continues, because the actor never allows his plastic facial movements to slide into mugging or overacting. “Scott’s work is hidden in plain view. Yet you don’t consciously notice his expressions because Scott sells them” with urgency and conviction; the expressions accompany his dialogue, rather than distract from it. Turgidson forges on. As the scene continues he respectfully maintains that the president must decide between the lesser of two evils: one in which 20 million people will die as a result of his plan to back up Ripper’s attack on Russia; the other in which 150 million people will be annihilated because of Russian retaliation to Ripper’s bombing of Russia. Turgidson, writes Robert Kolker, is “particularly apt at laundering language of meaning, substituting jargon for information,” and speaking of the end of the world in terms a businessman might use: “I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed,”Turgidson concedes with thinly concealed disdain for the casualties involved. “I’m saying ten to twenty million people killed—tops—depending on the breaks. ” Robert Brustein applauds the manner in which Scott delivers his speech:“in a fine frenzy of muscleflexing pugnacity—stuffing his mouth with wads of chewing gum and flashing an evil smile as he outlines his plan to obliterate the ‘Commie punks’ entirely. ” In the War Room, there is general rejoicing over the announcement that the recall code, which has been transmitted to the wing, has been acknowledged by the B-52s. In a moment of pseudoreligious sentiment, Turgidson summons the assembly to attention while he addresses the Almighty as if he were a superior officer: “Lord, we have heard the wings of the Angel of Death fluttering over the Valley of Fear. ”Turgidson is interrupted by a call on the hot line from Russian premier Kissoff, who stormily informs President Muffley that one of the planes is still airborne and headed for its target. When the president asks Turgidson if that plane might possibly reach one of its targets, the general replies with mindless euphoria: “If the pilot’s really good he can barrel that baby in so low—you just got to see it sometimes—a big plane like a B-52, its jet exhaust frying chickens in the barnyard. Has he got a chance of reaching his target? Why, hell yes, he has!” Finally grasping the implications of what he has just said,Turgidson, for once, is struck dumb. While Turgidson is demonstrating to the president how the B-52 bomber has a good chance of avoiding Russian radar and delivering its payload, Scott spreads his arms wide like wings and nods his head in admiration of how good his pilots are—so good, in fact, that one of them is about to bomb its designated target. In the end, a single bomber does reach its Russian target, setting off the Russians’ retaliatory Doomsday Machine, meaning that life on this planet is doomed to extinction for the next century. Meanwhile, back in the War Room, Dr. Strangelove (also played by Sellers), one of the president’s advisers, explains that the survivors could be sheltered in deep mine shafts, and this small nucleus of the human species would be engaged in propagating the human race anew, to make up for all of the dead above ground. Strangelove’s listeners are intrigued by the 10-to-1 ratio of women to men that his plan involves. Even in a moment of utter desolation, Dr. Strangelove is never at a loss for a plan for the survival of himself and his colleagues, whatever the fate of humanity at large.
   The sexual implications of Strangelove’s plan of course appeal particularly to Turgidson, who asks with feigned detachment, “Doctor, wouldn’t this necessitate the end of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship?” Indeed it will; because the male survivors will have to breed many offspring,“the women will be selected for their sexual characteristics, which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature,” the doctor replies. Life in the mine shafts, as pictured by Strangelove, will involve assembly-line sex—just the sort of process that would appeal to Turgidson. Because of Turgidson’s preoccupation with sex, Kubrick gave him a last name freighted with sexual innuendo. It is made up of an adjective meaning swollen (referring in this case to the penis) and the word for male offspring.
   Even in the midst of cosmic calamity, man remains true to his perverse inclinations; and Turgidson, with his abiding paranoia about Russian conspiracies, which is surpassed only by General Ripper’s, begins yammering at the president that the Soviets may try “an immediate sneak attack to take over our mine shaft space. Mr. President, we cannot allow a mine shaft gap!” A series of blinding explosions follow this scene, signaling the end of civilization as we know it. Although George Scott, as we know, initially had reservations about the way Kubrick had shaped his performance, Howard records that Scott looked back on working with Kubrick more benignly over the years. “Kubrick has a brilliant eye,” he said; “he sees more than the camera. ”
   Contrary to Scott’s expectations, many critics liked his playing of Turgidson and did not think he overplayed his role, given the nature of the character. He went on to triumph in the title role of Patton (1970), winning an Academy Award for his portrayal of the heroic, if egomaniacal, Gen. George S. Patton, a role he enacted with force and authority. The following year, he won an Emmy for a TV production of Arthur Miller’s The Price. Scott refused to accept both awards, maintaining that he boycotted awards because he did not believe actors should be in competition with each other. His two outings as a director, Rage (1972) and The Savage is Loose (1974), both failed with the public, although he gave creditable performances in both. But he won plaudits as Thomas Hudson, a character modeled on Ernest Hemingway, in Islands in the Stream (1977), a film that was adapted from Hemingway’s semiautobiographical novel of that name and directed by Franklin Schaffner, who also made Patton. In later years, Scott turned increasingly to television, reprising his role of Patton in the sequel The Last Days of Patton (1986), playing the skipper of the Titanic in the TV-movie version of the disaster, entitled Titanic (1996), a year before Jim Cameron’s feature film version was made. Scott was married five times, each time to an actress, most notably Colleen Dewhurst, whom he wed twice (1960–1965, 1967–1972). Their son Campbell (named after George Campbell Scott) became a prominent actor. It is still generally thought that Dr. Strangelove and Patton remain Scott’s finest hours on the screen.
   References
   ■ Brustein, Robert,“Out of This World,” in Perspectives on Stanley Kubrick, ed. Mario Falsetto (New York: G. K. Hall, 1996), pp. 136–139;
   ■ Ebert, Roger, “Great Movies: Dr. Strangelove,Chicago Sun-Times, July 11, 1996, sec. E, p. 6;
   ■ Howard, James, Stanley Kubrick Companion (London: Batsford, 1999), pp. 87–98;
   ■ Kolker, Robert, A Cinema of Loneliness, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 121–129;
   ■ Phillips, Gene, Stanley Kubrick: A Film Odyssey (New York: Popular Library, 1977), pp. 107–126.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Scott, George C. — ▪ American actor in full  George Campbell Scott  born October 18, 1927, Wise, Va., U.S. died September 22, 1999, Westlake Village, Calif.       American actor whose dynamic presence and raspy voice suited him to a variety of intense roles during… …   Universalium

  • Scott, George — • СКОТТ (Scott) Джордж (р. 18.10.1927)    амер. актёр, режиссёр. Учился в Миссурийском ун те. С 1952 выступал на сцене и на ТВ как актёр и режиссёр. В кино с 1958 (ф. Дерево повешенных ). Специализировался на ролях мужественных, грубоватых,… …   Кино: Энциклопедический словарь

  • Scott, George Gilbert — (1811–78)    Architect.    Scott was the grandson of Thomas Scott, the author of the Calvinist Commentary on the Bible. He was committed to the gothic style of ecclesiastical architecture and he is remembered for designing the Martyrs’ Memorial… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Scott, George Campbell — ▪ 2000       American actor (b. Oct. 18, 1927, Wise, Va. d. Sept. 22, 1999, Westlake Village, Calif.), was an intense, craggy faced, raspy voiced, hard living, often married (five times, twice to actress Colleen Dewhurst), heavy drinking… …   Universalium

  • Scott, George Lewis — ▪ 2006       American gospel singer (b. March 18, 1929, Notasulga, Ala. d. March 9, 2005, Durham, N.C.), contributed his driving baritone to the gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama. At the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega, Scott… …   Universalium

  • Scott, George C(ampbell) — born Oct. 18, 1927, Wise, Va., U.S. died Sept. 22, 1999, Westlake Village, Calif. U.S. actor. He served in the U.S. Marines before studying drama and journalism at the University of Missouri. He took numerous roles in television and repertory… …   Universalium

  • SCOTT, George Gilbert — (1811 1878)    See GOTHIC REVIVAL ARCHITECTURE …   Historical Dictionary of Architecture

  • Scott, George C(ampbell) — (18 oct. 1927, Wise, Va., EE.UU.–22 sep. 1999, Westlake Village, Cal.). Actor estadounidense. Sirvió en los marines de EE.UU. y después estudió teatro y periodismo en la Universidad de Missouri. Interpretó numerosos papeles en televisión y en… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • George Campbell Scott — (* 18. Oktober 1927 in Wise, Virginia; † 22. September 1999 in Westlake Village, Kalifornien) war ein US amerikanischer Film , Fernseh und Bühnenschauspieler, Regisseur und Produzent. Seine bekannteste Rolle war die des US Generals George S.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • George C. Scott — Nombre real George Campbell Scott Nacimiento 18 de octubre de 1927 Wise, Virginia …   Wikipedia Español


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